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Satchmo SummerFest – New Faces and Old Friends

31st July 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

There’s little doubt that the biggest buzz about this year’s Satchmo SummerFest, Friday, August 4, through Sunday, August 6, is that Nicholas Payton is among the artists making their debut appearances at the event which has moved back to its original home at the Old U.S. Mint. The brilliant New Orleans trumpeter/keyboardist, who hits the Cornet Chop Suey Stage (the one near Esplanade Avenue) on Friday at 3 p.m., has been rather like a mysterious missing link at the fest that is now celebrating its 17th anniversary.

“It’s cool that they finally asked me,” says Payton who is bringing in his band – bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Joe Dyson, percussionist Daniel Sadownick and DJ Lady Fingaz – that appear on his, double-CD release Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. At Satchmo Fest, he and the ensemble will primarily perform selections from the album that journeys throughout the African diaspora including stops in New Orleans.

“On these two discs, I wanted to represent as much of the full spectrum of Black music from the beginning to the continuity of forever,” Payton said in a recent interview. “I wanted to represent it all and perhaps shed some light on things to come in the future.”

With that said, Louis Armstrong’s huge influence will naturally be present. “Every time I pick up my horn, I reference him,” Payton adamantly states. “We owe an incredible debt to Armstrong because he really is the fulcrum of American music. Certainly there were masters before him but everything got funneled and distilled through him to what we have now – from swing to funk to hip hop. He changed the feel. It’s one thing to have your own feel but it’s an entirely different thing to change the conception of what a quarter note feels like. I can’t think of anyone in recorded history who’s done that. And we’re still borrowing his quarter notes – the forward motion and the pulse of that, he changed that forever.”

The Pin Stripe Brass Band, which was formed by leader and snare drummer Herbert Carver III way back in 1977, also performs at the Satchmo Fest for the first time at 2:40 p.m. on Sunday at the Red Beans & Ricely Yours Stage (at the Barracks St. side of the Mint.) “I always wanted to play it,” says Carver, adding that the Pin Stripe has performed many times at the French Quarter Festival that is presented by the same organization (FQFI). He’ll be joined in the rhythm section by his son, tuba player Herbert IV, who also leads the Young Pinstripe Brass Band, as well as 20-year Pin Stripe member, Lionel Lee on bass drum. “You play the first song and the crowd will tell you where you’re going from there,” Carver says of the repertoire the band will bring to the fest though its signature tunes like Dave “Fat Man” Williams’ “I Ate Up the Apple Tree” should turn up in the mix of modern styles and classics such as “Bourbon Street Parade.”

David L. Harris and the members of his quartet – pianist Shea Pierre, bassist Jasen Weaver and drummer Gerald T. Watkins – represent a very talented group of millennials who have made their presence known on the New Orleans jazz scene. Trombonist, composer and vocalist Harris, who just released a new, modern jazz album, Blues I Felt, will present mostly material from that fine disc at his debut at Satchmo Festival (Saturday, 1 pm). The Baton Rogue native does have a love of and a background in traditional jazz.

“I never intend to pick up my horn and not lay down some remnants of all of the great guys I’ve played with,” Harris declared in a recent interview. His resume includes working with purveyors of the classic style including clarinetists Dr. Michael White and Tom Fischer, fretman Don Vappie and drummers Shannon Powell and Gerald French. Modern jazz leaders such as drummer Herlin Riley, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield have also utilized his trombone skills. Keep your ears for Harris and all of these guys – they are some seriously good musicians.

“This will be the Mafia’s shout out to the king – the original king of pop,” declares trumpeter Ashlin Parker referring, of course to Louis Armstrong. Parker leads the horn-heavy Trumpet Mafia at its initial performance at Satchmo Fest (Saturday, 3 p.m.). Parker promises that the unique ensemble will include “at least eight” trumpeter players while also featuring Julian Addison on drums and Chris Royal on synthesizer. Here’s how it works. Trumpeters, who boast backgrounds in many musical styles, pair up in various configurations that make for an ever-changing program. They produce a particularly spirited, sometimes startling, joyful noise when they all blow together. “We will preserve the legacy in a fluid fashion,” declares Parker of the respect they have for Louis Armstrong.

Vocalist Quiana Lynell has performed at the popular festival in past years joining guitarist/banjoist/vocalist Don Vappie’s Creole Jazz Serenaders. This time out, the up-and-coming artist, who has been working with noted trumpeter Terence Blanchard, will lead her own solid band that includes Vappie, pianist Mike Esnault, bassist David Pulphus and drummer Simon Lott. With the versatile vocalist fronting this group of fine musicians all things are possible so Lynell plans to mix her original numbers with some traditional New Orleans jazz. In keeping with the celebration of Armstrong, she and Vappie will perform a duet in the style of those magnificently performed by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. “The chemistry that Don and I have when we’re doing duets and when we play together is amazing,” Lynell proclaims. “It feels very kindred to the charisma and joy that they had together. Don and I share that similarly.”

Vocalist Stephanie Jordan, of the musical Jordan family, has been mentioned by the Satchmo Fest organizers as being among those making their Satchmo SummerFest debuts. It’s more than probable, having been photographed there, that Jordan, like Lynell, previously performed at the event though is making her debut this year as leader of her own band (Friday, 4:50 p.m.). Jordan actually got a late start in her individual career as a vocalist though she instantly garnered praise for her interpretations of jazz classics like Lena Horne’s “Here’s to Life” and Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away.” Jordan shows her hometown roots when she delivers rhythm and blues hits made famous by the likes of Irma Thomas.

As Nicholas Payton points out, Louis Armstrong was an innovator. His genius can and should be celebrated by remembering the jewels he gave the world and his progressive approach that is at the heart of the continuum of improvisational music.

This article originally published in the July 31, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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